Friday File: How’s the Market Doing in Phase 3 Trials?

Lots of quarterly updates, plus a deeper dive into Insurance and hospital investments as COVID-19 uncertainty reigns

We’re used to seeing biotech stocks surge because of the results of a clinical trial… but it’s quite crazy to see the whole market pinning its hopes on a clinical trial. Gilead’s (GILD) Remdisivir had some weak results leak last week and that helped inspire the market selloff (“Oh no, we won’t get a drug to treat coronavirus and fix everything!”), but then Gilead released some more encouraging results as more data came in, and even Dr. Fauci came out and said some optimistic things about Remdisivir becoming the standard of a care for COVID-19, and the market soars (“we’re saved! There’s a drug that will keep us all of ventilators!”)

The roller-coaster of emotional response is exhausting. And while I’m sure the armies of biotech researchers will come up with effective antivirals for the coronavirus, or other treatments that help make the mortality rate less worrisome (which is the big deal, of course — nobody minds being a little sick, but we don’t want so many people dying), I have no idea whether Remdisivir will be the magic bullet.. and it’s terrifying to think that market sentiment is swinging so much because of hopes for (or panic about) one single “magic bullet” solution. At least we don’t have to invest based on that sentiment, we can try to focus on the actual companies we invest in and judge which ones should be bought or sold, based on the future we envision after the coronavirus is effectively defused.

And OK, to be fair, it wasn’t just Remdisivir bringing market optimism early this week… it was also earnings. Especially Alphabet (GOOG) earnings, which came out on Tuesday evening and seemingly caused a great sigh of relief to wash across Wall Street, though Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) seemed to bring a little less optimism, and things got a wee bit uglier at the end of the week.

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The first thing that really caught my attention was Alphabet’s (GOOG) earnings — just how bad is the drop in advertising, anyway?

Well, it wasn’t all that bad in the first quarter, which makes sense because the big changes happened with only a couple weeks to go in the quarter (they were clearly on track to do spectacularly well if not for the coronavirus shutdown), but it’s obviously going to be dramatic with huge advertisers pulling back in the second quarter ...

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